Butt In! Your Child’s Success in Education Depends on Parent Involvement

11/22/22

Most parents agree, being proactive in our children’s education and academic success is a critically important facet of a healthy household dynamic. It’s more than simply making sure your kiddos are getting good grades, though—we want to know that they’re happy, fulfilled, interested, and not overwhelmed in whatever studies they’ve chosen to pursue.

For many reasons, parents may find themselves struggling to secure this connection to their student’s school lives. It may be a lack of understanding of the subjects that those students are learning (new math anyone?), a moody or quiet child who isn’t inclined to share much about their coursework, or conflicting or busy schedules that don’t allow much time for these conversations.

Or, it’s possible that parents just are unsure of how to get started. 

Whatever the reasons may be, we’re here to help clear the obstacles out of your path, because it’s your involvement— not your socioeconomic status, not your student’s genius levels, not the prestige of your school—that most increases the odds for student achievement.

What does it mean to be involved in your student’s education?

Some of your child’s earliest viewpoints and opinions of their education will be modeled after the viewpoints and opinions you exhibit in front of them. Showing your child that you’re just as open to learning something new and learning never stops is key to reinforcing the importance of lifelong learning.

Think about all the things you do at home with your young children: reading books, exploring outside, stacking and counting blocks, etc. Being a positive and engaged learning role model from an early point is an important first step in being involved in your child’s education.

For early learning years, you are both a role model and an advocate. You are closely in tune with your child’s emotional responses to their schooling and sound the alarm on their behalf if something seems awry. As your child grows older, your role evolves. You are still observing how your child learns and what their weaknesses are; it’s important to understand what mediums help them retain information the best.

How can parents get involved in their student’s education?

The late elementary school and middle school years are teeming with developmental opportunities. Your student’s academic interests are solidifying and you may have a pretty good idea of whether they lean towards science and STEM, the arts and humanities, linguistics, or trade and shop-focused pursuits. You’re probably involved in talking about and informing your student of potential careers in these fields.

Encouraging curiosity and inquiry, in and out of the classroom, is just as important in 16-year-olds as it is in seven-year-olds, but we also see the introduction of more performance tracking, the need for time management and discipline, and potential difficulties if the student struggles with focus.

Parents are faced with the often difficult task of reviewing curriculum materials, policing assignment progress, watching for signs of academic distress, and enforcing a school and social life balance. As tough as it may be, your attention to your student during the middle school and high school years is shown to improve grades, reduce dropout odds, and support positive parent-educator relationships. Try to recognize where potential problems are blooming and address them before your involvement becomes disciplinary or negative. Be responsive and attentive when a teacher reaches out to you and understand that they are coming from a similar place of concern for your student’s well being.

As a parent, you can be involved by gauging your child’s stress levels. Young adults, especially, can be overeager and lack perspective when they are taking too much onto their plates. There are sports they want to try, extracurriculars they need on their school resume, and tons of social events they don’t want to miss. Giving up things is hard, but beneficial in the long run.

A good way to model these time allocation skills is to show you have them yourself. If a full schedule has been your historical obstacle to more parent involvement in education, take charge in freeing up time for it — it’s important. It can be as simple as consciously transforming your conversations from “how was school” to more open-ended, thought-provoking questions like "tell me about today's science lab," or you could go as far as researching your school’s PTA and volunteer opportunities.

How does parent involvement change in online schools?

Not having a brick-and-mortar place to meet with teachers or administrators doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved in your student’s learning. Online educators will still hold office hours, parent-teacher conferences, or other avenues of communication with parents.

Online schools may give parents more resources for staying in tune with their student’s academic success by tracking their progress with homework and lessons, as well as grades and test scores. With all communication from online school programs being digital, though, parents bear the added responsibility of being technologically savvy and effective online communicators. Parents of online students take on another new hat: tech support.

How does parental involvement benefit students?

Parents with students in online school are also tasked with making sure that their students are in the ideal learning environment.

Is studying from an RV in a national park overwhelming or invigorating? Are they comfortable or distracted doing homework in their bedroom? Do they focus best at a desk with a PC or at a cafe on a laptop? 

Parents help online students make sense of this newfound freedom. Catering to your student’s learning style makes schoolwork less of a chore, boosts productivity, and supports high academic performance.

One of your most important jobs, though, as an involved parent is as a close observer of your student’s mental health. Burnout is hard on anybody, but young students may struggle with identifying and articulating these emotions. Particularly when students aren’t under the same roof as all their peers, they may need your help in curating a social life that is fulfilling and supportive. From researching local clubs and opportunities to ensuring your child is engaging with the online school’s network, your involvement extends far beyond academics.